Sunday 17 April 2005

Book Review: Remote Control

Later in the year I expect to have a paper published in the International Association for Human Resource Information Management (IHRIM) journal, which discusses the link between the success of strategic HR management and the loss of social capital in what I call virtualised organisations. Through a common interest in virtual teams I was pleased to have the opportunity to review a new book that will soon to be released by the IHRIM called:

Remote Control: A Practitioner’s Guide to Managing Virtual Teams
by Gerald Falkowski and Stephen Troutman

Falkowski and Troutman, who share a background in IBM Consulting, offer Remote Control as a comprehensive and actionable “how-to” for real-life virtual teaming. They see a strong distinction between what they call remote teams (working in one or more dispersed locations) from virtual teams (remote and lacking a single chain of command). But don't let this distinction deter you from reading further – much, if not all, of the book is applicable to that grey management area between routine remote teams and true virtual teams that many of us experience.

The authors are good on their word at making this a practitioner's guide and quickly position the key conceptual theme of the book, the Virtual Team Capital Model, and then get on with the business of describing how to put it into practice. The first half of the book focuses on three key activities that Falkowski and Troutman believe are essential for a successful virtual team: Rudimentary Project Management, Elementary Team Building and Facilitation, and Some Change Management. The introduction to these concepts is then integrated with a detailed case study.

The second half of the book looks at specific issues related to virtual teams, including a chapter devoted to virtual teaming technologies. However, the primary focus is on management issues and three other co-contributors provide additional input into the book by sharing advice on trust in virtual teams, managing cultural differences and how to support virtual teams with a program management office.

I found the chapter on managing cultural differences, which is clearly written from a North American perspective, quite excellent. The sensible tips in this chapter give the rest of the book a strong level of credibility. However, the final chapter that covers the establishment of a virtual program management office is what I feel really positions this book as something quite different. Few people talk about the supporting infrastructure required to make virtual teams successful and sustainable, so a chapter on forming a virtual program management office is a welcome addition to the virtual teaming body of knowledge.

Overall I found Remote Control an unpretentious and practical guide for managing virtual teams. It includes a generous selection of checklists and as a sign that the authors really intended this to be a practitioner's guide, they are also collected together at the end of the book for easy reference.

Remote control can be ordered online from the IHRIM. Pre-order before the 1st May and get a discount! Reference: Falkowski, Gerald and Troutman, Stephen, 2005, Remote Control: A Practitioner’s Guide to Managing Virtual Teams, IHRIM Press, Austin, Texas.

BTW If this book interests you, also have a look at Knowledge Management Tools and Techniques.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review, James. In researching an item about IBM and a social organization software tool recently, I discovered the depth and breadth of expertise that one of the authors, Gerry Falkowski, developed during his tenure at IBM--and now I'm eager to read this book you reviewed. A link to my write-up about Gerry is on my blog


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